Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin explains what led to the team’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Qualifying Q2 exit, and explains what is being done to solve their issues.
At the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Qualifying, Mercedes didn’t have their cars in Q3 for the first time since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.
One of the biggest issues was getting temperature into the tyres, especially considering that Qualifying has been red flagged several times due to accidents on the track.
“We’ve struggled with warm up with this car to be honest,” Andrew Shovlin explained after the session.
“And we’ve not got to the bottom of it. And today was a fairly painful example of that, where we couldn’t get the runs in that were long enough to build the temperature to get the tyres in the right window.
“We’ve seen it at all the races. In Bahrain it doesn’t really cost you, and all the other tracks, it’s actually been a bit of a difficulty in qualifying.
“Race pace has normally been good, I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re third quickest on race pace.
“The problem is on the single lap we seem to be very much in the midfield. And it’s an area that we are working on, but we don’t yet fully understand.”
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When suggested to him that Mercedes’ biggest issue is then on the aerodynamic or mechanical sides, Shovlin explained it’s not that simple.
“I don’t think it’s aerodynamic in a very simple sense, because we race quite well, we race clear at the midfield.
“On a single lap, a lot of the midfield teams are better than us. And we wouldn’t say that’s because they’ve got more downforce than us on a single lap. And likewise, I don’t think it’ll be a kinematics thing.
“There’s things you can do with the spec of the car to try and have a bit more heating from the brakes. But that’s a relatively subtle effect.
“As I said, we don’t know whether there’s something else in terms of how we’re setting the car up, or how we’re approaching the way that we’re generating heat in the tyres.
“But it is an area we’ve got to get to grips with, because it keeps holding us back on Saturday.”
Additionally, the new 18-inch rims and their different “cake tin” and duct arrangements make it difficult to manage tyre temperatures by using brakes, causing even more problems for Mercedes.
“Before you could get the hot air from the brakes straight onto the rim, and you get a very rapid transition there of the heat through into the bulk of the rubber. The regulations have been designed to make that difficult, and they’ve succeeded.
“As I said, we still need to understand why we can’t match some of the mid-grid teams, even. We know Red Bull and Ferrari have got more downforce right now.
“But we should be able to perform in the same position that we’re racing, which is realistically third-quickest team.”
Shovlin then explained that the team didn’t have any additional problems with Pirelli’s new wet and intermediate tyres, as they behave similarly to previous years, the main issue is simply building temperature.
“The big thing with the wet tyres is how do they cope through a range of conditions? How do they transition into the dry? And we’re not going to get a good view on that here.
“But certainly today with the intermediate conditions for us the issue was just one of building temperature.
“We were struggling in that area. In terms of balance, there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re very similar in terms of balance to the others.
“And George said if he’d be much further up the grid he wouldn’t have been surprised, he said the car felt okay. We just didn’t have the grip that we needed to be quick.”
Shovlin was also asked about Lewis Hamilton’s post Qualifying comments saying that Mercedes “underperformed as a team today” and adding that “there are things that we should have done that we didn’t do”.
“Lewis would have liked to have stayed out on one of the runs earlier on. And he felt we were building temperature when we decided to come in and take a new set.
“I think when you look at the end of the session, we couldn’t do a longer run because of the red flag.
“And so it’s two things. One is, could we could we have run the earlier part of the session better? Perhaps we could have done.
“The other issue is just that we don’t seem to be able to put in a lap one, where other people find it quite easy. And on a day like today, that’s always going to be a big problem.”
Aside from the tyre warm-up issue, Mercedes seems to be the team that has been stricken the most by heavy porpoising.
“Well to be honest both of them are annoying issues at the moment,” Shovlin explained.
“But realistically, the one that’s cost us today is the warm-up. I think if we’d been able to solve that, we would have had a much more successful time.
“The porpoising is limiting the car’s potential. But that’s no different to what we’ve had in the recent races.”
However, Shovlin says that the updates that Mercedes brought to Imola were not aimed directly at solving the porpoising issue, but at improving the car’s general performance.
“This was normal aero development. And to be honest, we’re working on the issues we’ve got with bouncing separately.
“The developments we brought here, we were aware that they’re not going to affect that. So that was why we were focused on those parts.
“But as an aside, we’re still working hard to try and understand, get on top and solve the bouncing.
“So again, we know that as well as the warm-up that’s another area that’s a weakness of this car that we need to fix before we’ll be competitive.”
Another issue Mercedes seems to have been facing is their power unit, as it seems their rivals have caught up to them, or maybe even overtaken them when it comes to power.
“We’re constantly doing analysis on that,” Shovlin continued.
“There’s areas that we think we can improve in terms of managing the deployment. However, it’s a homologated unit now. So you can only do things for reliability.
“That doesn’t stop us looking at what we can do within the modes, and how we can use those better, and whether there is anything more we can gain in how we’re deploying the modes that are available.
“But we’re not quick enough, and when when you’re not quick enough, you look at all areas for improvement.
“So the remit of the power unit people is to focus on that, and look at any fine tuning that we can do to find gains.
“And on the chassis side, we’ve got a lot of different projects at the moment to try and move forward,” the Briton concluded.